“Sleeping Poorly” by Vanessa Bossard

“Sleeping Poorly; or How Eudora, Warren, and Alice Came to Terrible Disappointment in the East Village” by Vanessa Bossard


             Eudora did not smell like pee.  Nor was she a drunk.  Nor, unfortunately, was she drunk.  Had Eudora been drunk, she probably would have been able to feel her fingers – and might well have smelled of pee.  As it was, the sadly sober Eudora soberly canvassed Indian Row – the twelfth block so canvassed – for a car with an unlocked door.  “Paranoid New Yorkers,” she thought.  “Gimme a Jersey plate.”
             Several cars down she spotted one attached to a silver, convertible Mini Cooper.  The door was unlocked.  Cold and bored with the search, Eudora felt a relief similar, perhaps, to that of one interrupted during a halfhearted suicide attempt – at once, great and grating.  “Fucking Mini,” she said aloud.  “Crunchy, green crap . . . maybe I’ll find some wheatgrass juice.”  She opened the door, pushed the passenger seat forward, and squeezed her 220-pound body headfirst, facedown into the back.  The fit was snug, the door ajar.
             “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” her mother’s remembered voice trilled.  Eudora had heard these words more than once in her youth; yet, while recognizing their general applicability, Eudora had always known herself to be possessed of a particular aptitude for “cure,” and consequently had never seen much point to “prevention” in her own particular case.  Taking both comfort in this knowledge and knowledge from her cheerleading days, Eudora twisted at the roll where her waist had been, gracefully extended her corpulent arm, and pulled the door shut.  “Score,” she thought before falling easily into a deep, peaceful sleep.
             Within three hours, however, the fucking Mini had lived up to its name; Eudora had developed a leg cramp.  The pain was dull but terribly annoying and would have become more so had Eudora not taken uncharacteristic initiative and – perhaps reconsidering her mother’s advice in light of her recent flailings – resolved to nip a bad situation in the bud and give prevention a try.  Though it was nearly dawn – and the probability of detection thus increased – Eudora repeated the contortion with what was certainly an improved fluidity.  She smiled, contented as the door cracked, releasing her leg, easing her cramp, and allowing her electric blue, suede sneaker to dangle conspicuously from the door.  As her smile broadened, Eudora wondered, vaguely, how visible it was from the corner.
             “Pardon me,” came a male voice well before the dawn.  Both annoyed and reticent, the voice suggested less anger at the apparent trespass than disapproval at the impropriety of sleeping in one’s tennis shoes.  The voice – remarkably ignorant of the inconvenience that its pre-dawn arrival had caused – resumed.  “Madam, if you please.”  The accent was British, which, as far as Eudora was concerned, at once explained the absence of police, quarters, and wheat-grass juice.
             “Have a dollar?” she asked.


             It was nearly dawn and Warren was knackered.  His Edinburgh-Newark direct had been delayed.  The in-flight food was, to put it as generously as honesty permits, food – and, upon arriving in a city as decidedly unglamorous in its appearance as in its criminality, was told that the proper BMW rental he’d booked would be unavailable.  “Pardon me,” he had said to the unacceptably plain rental agent in a tone that concealed what he deemed a considerable inner rage, “but you must make some accommodation.”  After a bit of back-and-forth, during which no voice was raised, she did: the 6’6” Warren would be driving to Alice’s exclusive East Village soiree in a preposterous Mini Cooper. 
             “I fear the grittiness of my new ‘hood’ will offend your British sensibilities,” Alice had said in the hope of adding a hint of danger to an invitation in danger of seeming too safe to be chic, “but I would love it if you came.”  Believing it an effective method of avoiding culpable rudeness, Warren had – years ago – developed the practice of responding with forthright ambivalence to most all social invitations.  The practice had, he felt, extricated him from innumerable awkward or boring engagements and, he felt, lent him an air of nonchalant busyness that people of consequence find appealing in an acquaintance.  It was thus strange to him that he had accepted Alice’s invitation in fairly unqualified terms.
             Warren had kissed Alice, but never fucked her.  He thought about that as the Manhattan skyline approached.  Nevertheless – with this certain exception – he considered her to be of reliably good taste and so was superficially disappointed, though internally gratified, when the East Village of Manhattan turned out to be just another gentrified neighborhood and her soiree just another over-hyped bore.  Indeed, the guests greeted his fashionable 1 a.m. arrival with an indifference to which Warren was thoroughly unaccustomed – an indifference which inexplicably persisted even after he began to speak, even after Alice explained who he was.  “This is Warren from Edinburgh.  Yes, that Warren from Edinburgh.  The one I go on and on about, too, too much,” she would trill before flashing a surprisingly wry smile and flitting away to deliver a designer cocktail.  Thus depopulated, the conversation would regress from the perfunctory to the tedious with disquieting inevitability. 
             To signal his consequent and quite unavoidable boredom, Warren dozed for several hours in a tonally conspicuous Ligne Roset chair situated in the main room.  It was surprisingly comfortable but – getting less praise for his bored affectation than he thought civil – decided to drive the Mini to a decent hotel and order up breakfast.
             The Mini was just around the corner from Alice’s apartment.  And, while not surprised to see it where he’d left it, Warren was indeed surprised to see an electric blue, suede sneaker dangling from its door.  “She better not have peed,” he thought, upon seeing the woman attached to it.


             Alice had kissed Warren but never fucked him.  Perhaps as a consequence, she was unsurprised when, around 3 p.m. on the afternoon following her housewarming soiree, she got a call from Warren, inviting her to The Mercer.  The invitation, she thought, was consistent with his historically inconsistent acceptance of her last-minute invitation.  “I’ll be there,” he had said – qualified only by an “unless I postpone my trip.” 
             Consistent too, had been his ostentatious nap on her orange, high-backed Ligne Roset knock-off.  He was, she had thought, still handsome enough not to render the performance entirely absurd.  Yet, deprived of accent by feigned sleep and reputation by foreign surround, Alice had adjudged his charms sadly diminished. 
             It was thus strange that Alice had set aside a distinct moment between truly engaging and informative conversations to recall – with undiminished fondness – their kiss of two years before, just after her semester at Edinburgh University.  The kiss had been good, in a way – for its uncharacteristic sweetness, if not for its passion.  “Pardon me,” he had said, both before and after.  His superficial politeness had amused her then – as now.  It made her want to impress him – although perhaps less so now.  And so, reminiscence complete, Alice had decided not to wake Warren with, what she was increasingly confident would have been a welcome kiss. 
             Still groggy en route to The Mercer, Alice felt the rightness of this decision.  Indeed, she considered that, had she chosen to kiss him the night before, it would have been more to showcase her new New York audacity for the benefit of her new New York friends than to signal sultry sophistication to stroke his Old World sensibilities. 
             Alice accordingly enjoyed her nonchalant rejection of Warren’s proposal to brunch at The Mercer.  “We’ll go to this little café on the Lower East Side,” she said dismissively upon arrival.  “So what did you think of my little soiree,” she said, less dismissively.  “I know you liked the chair.” 
             Warren, however, was far less eager to discus the chair than he was to discuss the Eudora incident.  So, as they walked to Brown Café, where only cool kids are comfortable, Warren – in a tone that attempted to mask disgust with decorum – recounted the initially confusing and ultimately disappointing experience of turning the corner to see an electric blue suede sneaker dangling from the door of his rented Mini Cooper and finding the sadly sober Eudora inside.  “‘Have a dollar?’ she said, if you can believe it.  The woman I just found using my car for a hotel.”
             Alice wondered, pointedly, if Warren imagined the hotel room he had unwillingly provided to meet The Mercer standard.  He would have perceived this, she supposed, a terrible injustice, as Eudora’s room, unlike his, was had for free.  Disappointed and relieved, Alice resolved to make it a short brunch.  “So, did you give her the dollar?” Alice asked, slowing her New York pace, and without announcement, redirecting them to a charming café that never had a wait. 
             “Of course not,” he said.  “She smelled like pee.”

Vanessa Bossard holds advanced degrees in mathematical economics and law from the University of Chicago and New York University, respectively.  She is currently working on a collection of extremely short fiction.  One of her stories recently received an Honorable Mention in the New Millennium Writings Short Short Fiction (2011) contest.  “Sleeping Poorly” is her first published piece.

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